The Washington Postleads with a look at the difficult task of converting local Iraqi fighters into members of the police force and army. Although U.S. commanders have often said that recruiting members of local Iraqi tribes and former insurgents is a crucial part of the war against extremists, the plan hasn’t gotten very far because of logistical problems and general distrust from Iraqi leaders. The New York Timesand Wall Street Journal’s world-wide newsboxlead with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s news conference, where he announced that parliamentary elections will be held in early January but refused to say when emergency rule will end. This makes it likely the emergency rule will continue until the elections, which angered opposition leaders and activists who said it would be impossible to campaign and ensure a legitimate voting process while the constitution is suspended and basic civil liberties are curtailed.
USA Todayleads with a new Pentagon report that says the military could save lives and money if it allocated almost $200 million over the next two years to improve its “CSI-style forensic science program.” The military currently spends hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire contractors who oversee the forensic labs, but if it trained more of its own people, the Pentagon could save money, centralize the programs, and make them more efficient. The Los Angeles Timesleads with a look at how 19,500 federal prisoners may be released early under a plan currently being considered by the U.S. Sentencing Commission to retroactively apply new, more lenient guidelines for crack cocaine offenders. The Justice Department isn’t a fan of the plan and says that it could put dangerous criminals back on the streets, but advocates insist a judge could always refuse to reduce the sentence of anyone who is deemed a threat.
As more local Iraqi “volunteers” keep coming forward “by the hundreds every week,” U.S. officials have to deal with the massive logistical hurdle that is involved in organizing thousands of recruits. Iraqi leaders are in no rush to accept them into the security forces as they’re worried that the United States is arming a group of people that could lead an effort to topple the government. Even though more than 67,000 people have signed up as “Concerned Local Citizens,” only about 1,600 of the fighters have been incorporated into Iraq’s security forces, and the government continues to restrict the movement of some of the local fighters. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are concerned that if the whole process doesn’t speed up, the volunteers will get frustrated and abandon their efforts to join the system.
Musharraf’s statements came during the president’s first news conference since the emergency declaration. Some thinkthat setting a date for the elections was an attempt by Musharraf to see how far he could push the emergency declaration without suffering repercussions from opponents and Western governments. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice quickly praised the decision but also emphasized that emergency rule needs to end as soon as possible. Benazir Bhutto said the plan was “a first positive step,” which raised further questions of whether she is still hoping to salvage a power-sharing agreement.
Throughout the news conference, which both the NYT and LAT call “combative,” Musharraf insisted the emergency rule is necessary to fight terrorists. He also said that all suspended judges will not be allowed to return, and defended his decision to deport three correspondents for a British newspaper that called Musharraf “our sonofabitch.”
The NYT fronts news that a guard working with Dyncorp, a private security company under contract with the State Department in Iraq, shot and killed a taxi driver in Baghdad. Witnesses said the taxi driver never posed a threat and there were no weapons in his car.
The NYT off-leads a look at how we’re beginning to see the “first trickle” of what is expected to become hundreds of millions of dollars that will be spent by nonprofit groups in the presidential campaign. Because of a recent Supreme Court decision, nonprofit groups will be able to spend money in advertisement almost without restrictions as long as they have some sort of stated purpose besides promoting a candidate. Many interest groups are rushing to create new nonprofits, which have fewer reporting requirements than the so-called 527 groups that were much-talked-about during the last presidential elections. Ironically enough, the NYT highlights how one of the first efforts by this type of group is a thinly veiled ad for Sen. John McCain, who has long worked on campaign finance reform.
The WSJ fronts a look at disgraced fundraiser Norman Hsu, who is now in prison, and the paper tries to figure out how a failed businessman was able to become one of the top contributors for Democrats. Hsu was always seeking a way to get wealth and power, and since his business ventures frequently failed, he found that politics was an easy way to get respectability and gain new “clients.”
In honor of Veterans Day, today’s must read is a LAT story by the photographer who took the famous picture of a bloodied Marine with a cigarette in his mouth. The picture ended up on the front page of more than 150 newspapers and it immediately made Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller “an emblem of the war in Iraq.” But his celebrity didn’t protect him from the all-too-common affliction of post-traumatic stress disorder. In a two-part series that began yesterday, the LAT’s Luis Sinco writes about how Miller’s life was turned upside-down after returning from Iraq. Despite the photographer’s constant worries that he was getting too close to his subject, he dropped everything to try to help the “Marlboro Marine” get out of a destructive cycle. It’s a riveting and emotional story that sheds light onto one man’s struggle to adjust to life after war, and is only made more poignant by the thought of how many other veterans are suffering from the effects of combat and have been permanently scarred by what they lived through in Iraq.
“All too often, soldiers who return from Iraq or Afghanistan—and those who served in Vietnam or Korea—have been left to fend for themselves with little help from the government,” says a NYT editorial. “The least a grateful nation should do is support the troops upon their return.”